A quick post on what I do to get my bees ready for winter. Here’s how the hives are looking right now.
Over the years I’ve found this works for me:
- A thymol based anti-varroa treatment in late August – I count this as part of my winter preparations, as it’s about the bees being able to rear healthy young workers to last the winter.
- Feeding 2:1 strength sugar syrup in September (though this year I haven’t and left a super of honey on each hive instead – we’ll see how well that works out)
- Mouse-guard on (late October-early November, once ivy pollen has stopped coming in)
- Chicken wire cage put around the hives when the first frosts arrive, to protect against woodpeckers
- Fondant put over crown board during December, then topped up as necessary
- Sheets of loft insulation tucked in over crown board, to keep the top of the hive insulated
- Open mesh floor on bottom of hive
- Hives strapped down, with a brick on top to protect against the wind
- Oxalic acid drizzle done around the winter solstice
What works for you?
I am still not very confident about overwintering in Cornwall, as the weather is so soggy here compared to London. We’ve had a few mini-hail storms since November. Also I’ve taken a risk by not feeding syrup in autumn as I would normally do.
The life of a winter bee is all about hunkering down, keeping the queen warm and surviving the short, cold days. Below is an illustration I did a few years ago of the differences between a summer bee’s abdomen and a winter bee’s abdomen. When it’s too cold to fly, the winter bee stores up all her waste inside… imagine the relief when she finally gets out! My bees have still been flying, so are not at this stage yet.